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A Discussion of Porcelain-Insulator Cutouts

All porcelain-insulator distribution fuse cutouts are differences can significantly affect field performance
not equal. Although S&C uses some of the same insu- and life. A summary of these design improvements is
lator suppliers as other U.S. competitors, S&Cs por- provided in the Appendix.
celain cutout designs and procedures are not the same.
S&C uses high-quality porcelain insulators. Each in-
S&Cs cutout assembly procedure is carefully con-
sulator must meet the minimum physical characteris-
trolled to yield devices providing years of trouble-free
tics specified by S&C for tensile strength, compres-
service.
sive strength, density, puncture resistance, porosity,
The vast majority of cutout porcelain breakage prob- and thermal-shock resistance.
lems which some utilities are now experiencing in-
The porcelain insulators used in S&C cutouts are thor-
volve one competitors cutouts manufactured 10 or
oughly tested before the assembly process begins.
more years ago . . . at a time when they and other
S&C has long required that porcelain insulator suppli-
competitors often obtained cutout porcelain from
ers 100% proof-test each insulator for transverse load
other sources.
strength. To indicate that the transverse load test has
been completed successfully, suppliers are required to
A Review of the Basics
mark the bottom of each insulator with indelible ink.
A distribution fuse cutout includes two basic compo-
nents: a mounting and a fuse tube. The mounting in- Cementing of Inserts Is Carefully Controlled
cludes the insulator, upper and lower live parts, con-
As important as it is to obtain a quality porcelain insu-
nectors and, optionally, a crossarm mounting bracket.
lator, the process of cementing the galvanized-steel
Todays cutout porcelain insulators employ cemented- inserts into the insulator cavities is even more critical.
in upper and lower inserts, to which the live parts are S&C goes to great lengths to ensure that the process is
attached, as well as a cemented-in center insert to carefully controlled, and that finished cutouts are
which the mounting bracket is attached. S&C pio- thoroughly and carefully inspected.
neered this design over 50 years ago, while others
were making cutouts with insulated steel bands to at- As a point of information, here are some of the steps
tach the live parts . . . a design which subjected the S&C takes to control the process of cementing the
porcelain to stress concentration and was susceptible inserts into the porcelain insulator, and then assem-
to damage from mishandling as well as deterioration. bling the complete cutout:

Steel-banded cutout porcelain has virtually disap- Insert Preparation


peared from the marketplace, as most cutout manufac- Inserts are stored in a clean, dry environment
turers have adopted the cemented insert design intro- at room temperature.
duced by S&C. The industry-wide acceptance of Each insert is individually dipped in a special
S&Cs design is a solid endorsement of the concept. bonding agent.
The porcelain insulator, the inserts, and the process by Insulator Preparation
which the inserts are cemented are all crucial to the
reliability of the cutout. Insulators are stored in a clean, dry environ-
ment at room temperature.
Years of Design and Quality-Control Each insulator is mounted in a custom-
Enhancements Make a Difference designed fixture, along with the inserts.
At a glance, all of todays cutout porcelain insulators At no time are the inserts allowed to make
would appear to be the same. But through years of contact with the insulator.
extensive mechanical testing of cutouts, S&C has
learned that even subtle design and quality control

351-T81
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Sulfur Cement Pour should expect several percent of their installed base of
cutouts to break every year. While that may be true
Specially formulated sulfur cement, main- for competitors cutouts, it most assuredly is not true
tained at a specific temperature, is carefully for S&C Type XS Fuse Cutouts. A discussion of
poured into the space between the insert and S&Cs cutout porcelain return history is provided in
the porcelain. the Appendix.
Each insert cavity is filled to the top in a se-
ries of separate pours. Care is taken to not Interestingly, the normal breakage mode of cutout
overfill the cavity. Chipping off of excess ce- porcelain is usually horizontally at an insert. But one
ment is not allowed. manufacturers cutouts have recently been seen to
break in an entirely different manner: vertically along
Final Assembly and Inspection the long axis of the insulator.
Final assembly is not permitted until a speci- While cracked or broken cutout porcelain may only be
fied time has elapsed since the last pour. an inconvenience to some utilities, it may be consid-
All cemented surfaces are given a two-part ered a serious safety incident by others. In the final
epoxy paint coating to seal them. analysis, safety should be the major driver for this
S&Cs Quality Assurance personnel inspect concern.
every completed cutout. The reclamation of
parts from rejected cutoutsespecially the Polymer-Insulator Cutouts Are Not
porcelain and the insertsis not allowed. Necessarily the Answer
S&C has tested, and continues to test, cemented in- In response to broken porcelain concerns, some utili-
serts to improve the process. A summary of S&Cs ties are now making an across-the-board move to
design testing is provided in the Appendix. polymer-insulator-equipped cutoutswhich they view
to be the ultimate solution to the problem.
Why Cementing of Inserts Is Crucial
But polymer insulators are not a panacea. The field
It is S&Cs belief that the porcelain breakage prob- performance of some polymer-insulator cutouts shows
lems some utilities have experienced with cutouts are that these devices are not always trouble-free. Some
attributable to less-than-exacting processes and lack of have exhibited flashover problems due to poor resis-
quality control by the cutout manufacturer. tance to tracking. Others have exhibited poor me-
chanical handling due to a lack of torsional rigidity. A
Upon examining a variety of competitors cutouts,
thorough evaluation of each manufacturers polymer
S&C has noted many instances in which the inserts
cutout insulation system and mechanical design is
were making contact with the inner porcelain cavity
warranted before making the change.
wall. Such contact creates a stress point that can
eventually precipitate porcelain cracking under ther- Since polymer-insulator cutouts are more expensive,
mal shock and/or mechanical operating stresses. As they should be used for good reasons. S&C offers
noted above, S&Cs assembly fixturing is designed to polymer-insulator cutouts not as a substitute for
prevent the inserts from touching the porcelain. poorly produced porcelain-insulator cutouts, but rather
to meet some customers requirements for a lighter-
From the examination of competitors cutouts, S&C
weight cutout and/or a cutout offering improved per-
has also concluded that the temperature of the sulfur
formance in coastal environments. Other customers
cement is not being closely maintained during the
like the more forgiving nature of the polymer insula-
pour. Excessive heat can change the physical struc-
tor, which wont chip when the cutout is out of the
ture of the cement; insufficient heat can result in im-
box and subjected to rough handling.
proper material flow during the pour.
S&C Is Committed to the Manufacture of
Porcelain Breakage Is NOT a Fact of Life
Porcelain-Insulator Cutouts
Some manufacturers of fuse cutouts have claimed that
Understanding the care S&C employs in making por-
all cutout suppliers have a high rate of porcelain insu-
celain-insulator cutouts, and why the various process
lator breakage in the field, and that a reasonable user
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steps are important, provides much needed insight into A variety of improvements have been made to S&Cs
the matter. S&C has no intention of getting out of the Type XS Fuse Cutouts in the course of those 50 years.
porcelain-insulator cutout business. Over 50 years of Unlike other manufacturers, S&Cs policy has
excellent field performance attest to the superiority of beenand will continue to beto notify all fuse cut-
S&Cs porcelain-insulator-equipped Type XS Fuse out customers when significant design changes are
Cutouts. being effected.
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APPENDIX

S&Cs Cutout Porcelain Design Improvements


Strengthening around insert holes at ends.
S&C has continued to manufacture its cutouts to ex-
In 1977, the root cross-section geometry was
acting standards, at the same facility, for over 50
changed to increase insulator strength.
years. Although the cement formulation and bonding
agent remain unchanged, S&Cs carefully controlled Stress reduction at the insert holes. In
manufacturing process has been improved in a variety 1983, the insert hole geometry and insulator
of ways over the years. Heres a run-down of the ma- specification were changed to reduce me-
jor changes effected to the cutout porcelain. chanical stress.
100% transverse load testing. This test was
Stress reduction at center insert. In 1959, implemented in 1985 and has been improved
the back of the insulator was flattened to re- a number of times since.
duce mechanical stress and to make it easier
to pour the sulfur cement.
_________________________________________

Insert integrity during thermal-shock test-


S&Cs Design Testing of Cutout Porcelain
Inserts ingsix cycles of 65C to 4C, with cutout
immersed in water.
S&C has performed the following design tests on cut- Insert integrity during freeze-thaw cycle
out porcelain inserts: testingseven cycles to -40C, with cutout in
Insert integrity of as-poured insulators. vacuum-over-water tester.
Insert integrity during thermal-cycle test- Insert integrity during long-term outdoor
ingtwelve cycles of 50C to -40C. exposure testingexamination every 6
months to 1 year.
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sure to these leakage currents causes porosity


S&Cs Cutout Porcelain Return History
in the cement surface, which can create water
S&Cs return rate for cutout porcelain is extraordinar- ingress paths into the insert cavities.
ily good: 0.00103% of units shipped. Nearly all re- Melting of the cement. This has occurred on
turns have been from colder-climate northern states. cutouts on which a connector cable has not
The very few problems noted have included: been properly prepared or tightened, or too
Drying cracks. These have occurred at the small a conductor has been used. It results in
transitions between the cavities and the main thermal runaway of the connectors at both the
body. They are the result of incomplete dry- top and bottom inserts.
ing before firing, which can produce excessive
The following bar charts summarize the conclusions
difference in shrinkage rates.
of S&Cs field return reports for porcelain insulators
Erosion of the cement. This has occurred on used in Type XS Fuse Cutouts.
cutouts located in areas with higher-than-
normal leakage currents, and is generally seen
at the top and center inserts. Long-term expo-

Type XS Fuse Cutout Field Return Reports (1995 - 2003)

18

16

14
Number Returned

12

10

0
New 1-5 6 - 10 11 - 15 16 - 20 21 + Unknown
Age of Insulator When Returned (Years)
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Type XS Fuse Cutout Field Return Reports (1995 - 2003)

25

20
Number Returned

15

10

0
Porcelain Porcelain Operational Competitor's Mechanical Unknown
Defect - Defect - Old Issue Cutout Damage
Current Designs &
Design, Processes
Process
Reason for Porcelain Break